Leak sends millions of gallons of water into UI building under construction

Leak sends millions of gallons of water into UI building under construction

URBANA — University of Illinois employees and building contractors on Monday were still trying to sort out what happened over the weekend when about 4 million gallons of water leaked into the basement of a building currently under construction on campus.

Several questions still remained unanswered Monday afternoon, including the cause for a leak in the chilled-water pipe, how much it will cost the university to clean the site and how the leak might affect the construction timetable.

About 7 a.m. Sunday, a leak in a chilled-water pipe was discovered along with several feet of water in the basement of the new electrical and computer engineering building, currently under construction off Wright Street just south of the Beckman Institute and north of the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory in Urbana.

"Crews were dispatched throughout the day and well into Sunday evening," trying to determine what happened and talking with staff of the Urbana Champaign Sanitary District about plans to discharge the water into the district, said Andy Blacker, spokesman for the UI's Facilities & Services Division, which oversees construction projects on campus.

Crews were still pumping out water on Monday afternoon, and Blacker said he did not know when the work would be completed.

Crews had planned on Monday to connect the building to the chilled-water line. Blacker said they were still trying to determine what exactly happened and when.

The UI's chilled-water system cools buildings throughout the year. The new ECE building had not yet been connected to the chilled-water line.

Blacker said the university did not know the full extent of the damage to the space and wouldn't until all the water was pumped out.

"It's under construction. There was not a lot there that could be damaged," he said.

The building was not occupied and nothing had been moved in the basement. No other buildings in the area were flooded, he said.

The cost of any cleanup or repairs are still to be determined, he said.

Kim Lytle, director of administrative services at the Urbana Champaign Sanitary District, said the increased load is not a problem for the district since the university is discharging the water over the course of several days. The district typically receives about 12 million to 14 million gallons a day. However, this time of year is typically low because university classes are not in session and many students are still out of town.

Groundbreaking on the $71 million electrical and computer engineering building was held in fall 2011; its completion is estimated for mid-2014. Plans call for the building to be 230,000 square feet and house classrooms, laboratories, meeting rooms and an auditorium.

The state is providing $47.5 million of the building costs, with the university seeking private money, federal dollars and other sources to finance the rest.